The Greatest Ancient Picture Gallery by William Dalrymple | The New York Review of Books

The Ajanta murals told the Jataka stories of the lives of the Buddha in images of supreme elegance and grace. Unlike the flatter art of much later Indian miniature painting, here the artists used perspective and foreshortening to produce paintings of courtly life, ascetic renunciation, hunts, battles, and erotic dalliance that rank as some of the greatest masterpieces of art produced by mankind in any century.

Twenty-two years later, in 1866, the great Indian Uprising of 1857 had come and gone, the vengeful British had murdered hundreds of thousands of suspected rebels, the East India Company had been removed from power, and instead Queen Victoria had been proclaimed empress of a now fully colonized India—but Major Gill was still in his beloved caves, hard at work. When he finally sent his painstakingly detailed oil paintings to London for exhibition in 1866 at the Crystal Palace, they were almost immediately destroyed in the fire that engulfed the exhibition center. Tragically, the paintings had not even been photographed. Gill knew what he had to do: with astonishing sangfroid, he packed his bags and returned to the site to begin work again. He died there, still absorbed by his copying, in 1875.

Major Gill

Doorway of Buddhist Vihara, Cave XXIV, Ajanta, with Major Gill seated in entry

Major Robert Gill

John Griffiths

Archaeological Survey of India - Ajanta


Upper Caves Stereoscopic General view of upper caves from stream, Ajanta, 1868

General View of Ajanta Caves From Footfalls of Indian History by Sister Nivedita, 1915

Ajanta Caves, 2006


Cave 9 Interior of Buddhist chaitya hall, Cave IX, Ajanta 10004482, 1869

Cave 9 Cave 9 via Google Street View


Cave 10 Interior of Buddhist chaitya hall, Cave X, Ajanta 10004483, 1869

Cave 10 Cave 10 via Google Street View


Cave 26 Interior of Buddhist chaitya hall, Cave XXVI, Ajanta, 1869

Cave 26 Cave 26 via Google Street View


The Ajanta cave murals: 'nothing less than the birth of Indian art' | Art and design | The Guardian Friday 15 August 2014

Oldest paintings of Indian faces found in Ajanta: William Dalrymple - Shrabonti Bagchi | Nov 6, 2014 | Times of India

Unseen Ajanta | William Dalrymple | Nov 24, 2014